My name is Pastor Donald Mzungu from Kilifi, one of the Kenyan towns north of Mombasa.
I originally come from a village called Shariani 40km North of Mombasa right on the Kenyan coast. The village now has a population of 7,800 but most of the people are illiterate. So to make ends meet, they work in a nearby plantation as sisal cutters and clearing the farm from long grass. Some are employed in a nearby stone quarry while others do small scale fishing in the nearby Indian Ocean.
The reason why most people never went to school is because of fees and because of the distance they had to walk to the only public school in the village, with some living 2km away.
Fortunately, I was amongst the privileged few who went through a formal nursery school for one year followed by eight years in primary school before continuing my education for four years at high school. It was following this that I was offered a place at Nairobi’s Utalii College, the only hotel and tourism college in the country.
After graduation from the college, I learned that the island of Jersey in the UK was looking for qualified and trained hotel and tourism workers.
The Jersey Hospitality team had visited Kenya and witnessed very high standards of service, so they wanted to take some of this hotel expertise taught by Kenya Utalii College back to the Channel Island.
I was among the second cohort of people who were recruited in 2001. Our arrival boosted the number of Kenyan workers on the island from 20 to 65, with the following year’s influx taking that number to over 140.
Although it wasn’t easy for me to leave my parents, friends and home to go and work so far away from them all, something that I was not used to before, I felt privileged to be given to opportunity to go and work on Jersey.
It was fun and exciting to leave home for abroad though painful in the sense that we were going to stay away from our families for too long. During my time working at the Merton Hotel in Jersey, I personally thought of giving back something to the family and the village I came from so that I could improve the lives of the many destitute families I had left behind.
I started by selecting poor children who were finishing primary school but couldn’t proceed to secondary school as they couldn’t afford the fees. In total, I supported 24 children from a number of different families and by helping them, I knew I was helping and impacting the whole village in the future with education.
A few friends who knew what I was doing in Jersey asked to help me by supporting some of the children which was really appreciated.
Thereafter, I thought of building a church for the village as there was no permanent place of worship but just a temporary one which could only hold 100 people out of the 6,000 people we had in the village at the time.
I aimed to build a church which could house 800 worshippers, so I saved my wages from my hotel job as a waiter, and later as a restaurant supervisor, to begin the church project with the support of my friends and relatives who were on the ground in the village. Western Union or Moneygram were used to transfer the money back home.
After building the church to the ring-beam, I needed a total of £1,000 to continue the project. On one Sunday a friend introduced me to Ron Hanby, who I believe was sent by God, who donated the money required to pay for the ring bean to be put in.
A few friends donated money to pay for the building’s ventillation and then Dave Rudge and his family from England, who had got to know me after holidaying at the Merton Hotel where I worked for eight seasons, gave me £7,500 to pay for the church roof after hearing the story of what I was doing back home.
This generous donation meant we were able to put the roof on in time for the Christmas holidays when I went home as it was low season at the hotel.
It was during this period that a friend in Jersey by the name Norman Day emailed me to ask if he would visit me in Mombasa during his holiday. When he saw what I was doing, he donated £3,500 to help me finish all the plasters and flooring of this huge church building.
Word went round in Jersey that a Kenyan hotel worker had helped build a church in his village which generated interest in the Jersey Evening Post, which led to coverage on BBC radio and ITV television. They were all interested in what my next project was after the church, so I told them the village needed a school and as a result, the Tumaini Academy School project started in the village.
Tumiani is the Swahili word for ‘Hope’ as we knew the school would become a source of hope to many in the village and country through various ways, such as poor children accessing education closer to home and the unemployed getting jobs as teachers and support staff.
The first classroom was made possible through a donation from Walter Lane, a friend in England, and Peterborough Community Church. Then, I came into contact with Roger Quail and his family who visited the school and subsequently donated a classroom and gave me the idea to launch the Shariani Trust in Jersey to help raise funds to complete construction of the school.
In total, nine classrooms, a staffroom, a store and a headteacher’s office were built, along with an £18,000 computer room and a subsequent £12,000 was generated by friends in all the churches and schools in Jersey which helped to raise through various fundraising initiatives and donations.
It was during my fundraising efforts that Anne and David Crossland came in to help in a big way. The Merton Hotel and the Seymour Hotels and staff were very supportive and helped me raise money as did the Fit Footwear Central shop, La Rocquier School, Helvetia School, St Anne’s Church of England Academy in Manchester and the Bolton St Catherine’s Academy.
Friends joined me and volunteered to be trustees of the charity and today, the village has a church building which can hold 800 people, a primary school with 450 children and a secondary school with 220 children, a computer college, a tailoring school and a village medical clinic which was started and supported by the River Church in Jersey which treats children when they fall ill and supports the community at large.
The school still needs to build a nursery and 2 more classrooms for the secondary school that has seen increasing numbers enrolling leading to overcrowding. I am trying to raise £6,000 pounds to build each classroom and to cover the ongoing £150 a month to pay a teacher’s salary and £50 per day to feed the school with porridge and lunch for the 670 children.
Any support given to us through the Shariani Trust registered in Jersey would be highly appreciated.
The Trustees run fundraising activities and car washes to help raise money to cover the building costs of the project and also help with the running costs of the school.
For more information on the school, please visit their Facebook page.